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Photography In Mexico (Or, At Least Some Of It)

There's a new exhibition at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, which, assistant curator of photography Jessica McDonald emphasizes, barely scratches the surface of photography in Mexico. It's still called "Photography in Mexico" — and it's not a bad teaser for all our southern neighbor has to offer.

Knowing in advance what her answer would be, I asked McDonald if she could describe Mexican photography. Granted, it's complex to generalize photography by nationality. "And its just as complex in Mexico," she says. "Instead of just thinking about picturesque landscapes and pictures of villagers and stereotypical images of Mexico, this [exhibition] shows that it's a much more complicated situation."

Another reason it's complex, and why the show is called "Photography In Mexico" — not "Mexican Photography" — is that many of the featured photographs were taken by visiting international artists like Edward Weston and Tina Modotti, who, in turn, would influence many of the photographers who followed.

The exhibition language says it "offers a survey of the last century of photographic practice in Mexico, extending from the period of political and cultural reconstruction that began in the 1920s following the Mexican Revolution to recent works that investigate the complex region surrounding the country's border with the United States."

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A recent gift of about 50 photographs from a Los Angeles couple prompted the museum to take inventory of its existing collection. If you're unfamiliar with Mexican photography, here's a springboard for a deeper examination:

To learn even more, check out Texas State University's Witliff Collections, which has the largest holding of modern and contemporary work by fine-art photographers and photojournalists in Mexico. Or, if you already have a favorite, tell us in the comments.

Photography in Mexico is on display through July.